There can be no doubt social networks have revolutionised the way we live, work and play.

But for those who thought this shift in internet usage began with Facebook’s launch back in 2004, think again.

Getting social: Online networks have been around for longer than you may think

While its arrival heralded the moment the mainstream adopted the term ‘social network’, they have existed for decades in various forms, even if people didn’t realise that was what they were using.

Starting with CompuServe at the end of the 1960s through AOL and Craigslist in the ’90s to the site explosion in the late 2000s, cyberspace is littered with examples.

And although many only enjoyed short-lived but majorly hyped success – such as Friendster, Chatroulette, Plaxo, Faceparty and Bebo – others including LinkedIn, Club Penguin and have flourished.

Jono Marcus is Digital Director for Citizen Relations, a PR company which traces how social networks have evolved over the past four decades.

He said: “From the original online bulletin boards and instant chat sites to today’s giants such as Twitter, social networks in some form have always been a massive part of cyberspace.

“Many may not instantly strike you as being a ‘social network’ because it’s only since Facebook arrived that this description gained such popularity.

“ICQ’s instant chat for example, was a forerunner of many of today’s sites, allowing you to talk in real time to friends and strangers.”

Figures from analysts Gartner show worldwide social media usage will have risen from 832m in 2010 to 1.32 billion in 2015.

In the UK, 49% of the nation aged 15 and over use social media, according to pollsters Ipsos, with people spending more than nine hours per month accessing social media via smartphones. So it’s no wonder the race to find the next most-talked about network is a fierce one.

One of the newest is GetLunched, a mix of LinkedIn, Groupon and Foursquare. It aims to help people meet each other by connecting them for lunch, whether that’s to find a new contact or just share a good local meal deal.
Co-founder Matt Bandy said: “Technology has brought us full circle allowing us to go back to networking the traditional way – face-to-face. We let people discover their local connections and give them a reason to meet up.”

Fellow founder Lyndon Gasking added: “We want to develop a social ‘action’ network. People generally like to help other people given half a chance and a free lunch is a great incentive. People find a person they would like to connect with and agree the terms. ‘I’m buying, you’re buying, 50:50.”

But along with the new startups, interestingly two major milestones in the social network timeline are now looking to make a comeback.

MySpace was once the darling of the internet with millions of users and tens of millions of unique page views. It had the ‘it’ factor. But after being bought in 2005 by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp empire at the height of its success for £330m, its popularity waned, in part due to the phenomenal growth of Facebook.

Now under new owners, it is making a resurgence, going back to its roots as a site for music, bands, artists and their fans.

And earlier this week, Friends Reunited made a return. Its popularity too began to drop when it was bought by ITV in a mega-money £175m deal.

Friends Reunited has made a comeback

Now with a focus on rediscovering memories, Friends Reunited aims to become a scrapbook for people’s nostalgia. That could include school days, major historic events or privately held moments that shaped their lives and those of their family.

It has launched with 10 million publicly available memories including six million photographs and in a bid not to repeat the closed wall view of the past is encouraging users to connect the site to Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to share their stories.

[Related Article: Why the relaunched Friends Reunited site should now just be a memory]

Chris van der Kuyl, CEO of Friends Reunited’s parent company brightsolid, said: “We’re really excited about the opportunity to provide a uniquely nostalgic experience for the UK mainstream, that’s not only entertaining and engaging, but powerful and lasting too.

“Nowhere else can you find a single place to search, collect and save the bigger, more important moments in your life, memories which, in today’s digital world, are in danger of slipping through your fingers.

“We need to protect our precious and shared memories for longevity, which the new site enables you to do, or we’re at risk of becoming the lost generation.”

Mr Marcus added: “There is no exact science in creating a social network that will survive being a fad and not brushed aside when the ‘next big thing’ comes along.

“But we can see that those with sharing at their heart are often among the strongest. Whether that’s sharing photos on Flickr, videos on YouTube, business referrals on LinkedIn or your location on Foursquare.

“Now we have so much choice in the social network space we undoubtedly live on multiple networks, trying lots out at the same time.

“For many that can mean a daily struggle to keep up with the wealth of information and data they are confronted with but for others it can open the doorway to new horizons, new ideas and new ways of life.”

Source : Yahoo

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